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Venice Commission probes democracy on second day of Polish visit

PR dla Zagranicy
Roberto Galea 09.02.2016 17:02
The Venice Commission has conducted several interviews about alleged inconsistencies with Poland’s rule of law on its second and last day on a fact-finding trip to the country.
Gianni Buquicchio on Tuesday. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej ZborowskiGianni Buquicchio on Tuesday. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski

The head of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, on Tuesday continued a visit to the country aimed at finding out whether democracy in Poland is in peril.

Among the meetings held on the second and last day of the visit, Buquicchio met with members of the Constitutional Tribunal, including the head of the Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński.

“I never thought that I would see such a situation where the Venice Commission travels to a country which already has a strongly established democracy and a rule of law,” Rzepliński was reported as saying by the PAP news service.

He admitted that the meeting with the Venice Commission could lead to an end to the crisis revolving around the Constitutional Tribunal. “Lawyers are people whose job is to find solutions, bring the sides closer together.”

The meeting with Buquicchio was attended by all except five of the Tribunal judges, the same five judges voted in by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party at a parliamentary sitting in December. The election, and later swearing in by Polish President Andrzej Duda was one of the major issues being probed during the two-day visit by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s human-rights organisation.

Among the other meetings held on Tuesday, was one with Polish civic-rights ombudsman Adam Bodnar.

“We spoke specifically about the terms and mandate of the Commission, which assesses the law on Constitutional Tribunal,” Bodnar said, adding that “the delegation asked for clarification” of some of the issues that have been included in a recent report by the Ombudsman in relation to the changes to the Tribunal.

Asked about how Poland can solve this political crisis, the head of the Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, said that: “By discussing [these issues]. All the political parties should find some mutual agreements which are good for the country.

“We are gathering a lot of information from all the authorities. It is important to start a dialogue with everybody,” he added.

The European Commission last month launched an inquiry into whether Poland is upholding the principle of the rule of law and whether controversial legislation pushed through by the country's new Law and Justice (PiS) government violates EU standards.

Brussels has said it will work closely with the Venice Commission, which includes experts in constitutional and international law, in assessing developments in Poland.

In December 2015, the governing PiS party passed legal amendments which saw five new judges being elected to the Constitutional Tribunal.

A report by Poland’s Attorney General later said that three amendments to the law related to the Constitutional Tribunal introduced by PiS were unconstitutional.

On Monday, Buquicchio praised the decision of Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, who invited representatives of the Commission to Poland.

The draft opinion will be prepared and submitted for adoption by the next plenary session of the Venice Commission on 11-12 March 2016 in Venice. (rg)

The draft opinion will be prepared and submitted for adoption by the next plenary session of the Venice Commission which takes place on 11 and 12 March 2016 in Venice.
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